This is just something for reference for beginners starting, those who are new to the site, or those whole are lazy and don’t wanna use the search function.
Basically just a FAQ/Tutorial on lowering a Cavalier/Sunfire in specific. This NOW also covers BARS and BRACES
TABLE OF CONTENTS
a) Springs Coilovers Air Hydraulics
b) Abuse of Suspension and warranty
Struts Choices - OEM replacement and Lowering
How To find More information????
Places to Buy Parts
a) tips on price ranges
Alignment of suspension
Setting up your suspension to handle good
Lenko FAQ (ALOT OF DEFINITIONS OF WHAT THINGS ARE AND DO- VERY THOUROUGH)
Bars Braces and Bushings
Most things I write from experience, others I write from events that have happened with others who have posted about their gains or misfortunes. there are included references from other members of the original FAQ as well.
The only way you will get anything out of this is by reading it in full and asking questions if needed. The suspension forum, as well as ALL of JBO has MANY people who help out with forums and individuals needing help. One thing to realize though is learning from others mistakes. If not, the saying of a hard head makes a soft butt can and usually does hold true.
To start off:
1) 95-04 suspension components ARE interchangeable.
yes they are
meaning what you use for something on a 96, you can use on a 2003 or a 99 or a 97or 98. Many of you ask this over and over. the answer is here.
2) Suspension Overview
Now, the suspension is the main thing that SUSPENDS your car in the air with the base being the wheels and tires. Those are the 4 points that touch ground. Suspension arms, struts, springs, shocks are all components in helping keep the car up off the ground/road and also controlled so the inside components of the car (aka you, the passenger(s) are not shaken nutty.
Through this post I will cover a few points that are now frequently asked and give explanations and or proof in form or logic, quotes, or posts made on JBO which can be referenced.
Starting off, WHAT SHOULD I CHOOSE? WHATS THE BEST…?
Firstly, BEST? Drop that word from you vocab. Seriously…Obviously what’s “best” for you isn’t gonna be best for marky mark, and what’s best for you two isn’t gonna be what’s best for jimmy jam. There isn’t a “best” you can just look up on a chart. There are plenty of parts that are good for a certain person or application that aren’t for another. SO……What should each person choose? What is better? These are two commonly asked questions by newbies and people who aren’t new overall, but new to suspension. What SHOULD you choose? Well look at what you want to use your suspension for and what you plan to accomplish. Ask yourself these questions:
-How low do you want to be from stock? The lower you go the harsher the ride.
-How soft or stiff do you want ride quality?
-How much do you want to pay?
-How many times do you want to half-arse this before its done right?
-How quick do you want to be able to adjust it? Or are you into adjusting at all?
-How critical are you when it comes to being COMPLETELY EVEN?
-How are the roads in your area?
Those are just a few questions to ask yourself. Those are to help YOU decide what YOU need and or WANT.
THIS should be something you pay attention to. all you have to do is use your mellon and decide.
When you get that figured out, here is an overview of the choices for suspension.
In all choices however, there are CHEAP and QUALITY choices. This will obviously help you in figuring out what way you wanna go. But do realize that cheap isn’t always good and neither is expensive. Going cheap will obviously get you a cheap product. Cheap products I tend to view as this: “if this was underwear, would you want it housing family jewels?” you normally don’t put cheap stuff for protection. Cause in essence, your suspension can and will be part of the equation of keeping you safe on the road or having your car, body, and hopefully not…other passengers from being harmed, if there ever comes a time when you need to brake hard, swerve, or use some other evasive driving moves in an emergency.
*** Don’t be one of the ones, I don’t have enough money. Instead of giving the BS I’m poor story, do realize its not gonna hurt you to save up for a part you need. Everyone here is not a millionaire. If need be get a job, get two, or simply save up. There are people here with a house, 2 kids and working minimum wage and can save up. If saving up is a problem for you, then its time to start growing up. All the people who don’t wannt spend that much money, but have their car loaded with audio equipment, get real. Quality costs, and you get what you pay for. No bullsh*t. no excuses***
3) SUSPENSION CHOICES OVERVIEW
In a quick overview, the main choices for suspension are:
Obviously, the smoothest but prob the most sloppiest, when it comes to crisp handling. Also the cheapest.
These NOW come in linear and progressive springs. They are not adjustable, so what you put on is really what you get unless you wanna pay money to buy more stuff to try and adjust em. This, in an aftermarket sense, is the “low-cost” way of lowering a car. All it really involves is a change of springs, but strut change is also HIGHLY recommended.
Coilovers usually always came in Linear spring rates. But they now come in progressive. But these are usually higher priced coilovers. AKA not on EBAY. Coilovers are GREAT for adjusting as that is their main advantage. You can change the spring rate as well as the spring length, the height at which the car sits and if you are critical in all sides being even you can adjust these to the nearest micrometer if you have the patience. These are especially good in racing and in shows where height may need to be adjusted low for stability, or to wow the crowd and judges, but it allows you to leave the track or show at the height you came in with if it was higher. VERY versatile. Downside, more expensive, and there are so many cheap knock offs that come without essential parts for the car. These are the kits that are made for other cars, but can be adapted, so they change the part numbers, most put them on ebay, and they are usually less that 200$…but take a moment and think. A quality set of springs are around 200$ ...so then why are coilovers, with more parts....less than a decent set of springs. If you cant conduce an answer from that, sit down, drink some milk, and have a nap, cause you are really muffed up!
***Linear means the spring throughout the WHOLE coil is the same spring rate. So if the spring was 350lb/in, that means the spring would need 350 lbs to compress it EACH inch. Now, some coilovers, mostly FULL coilovers, not sleeve style kits are coming with progressive spring rates. Progressive springs DO NOT have a set spring rate as linear. The reason why is because each section of the spring has a spring rate that is different from the next. So the top half of the spring may be 115lb/in, then gradually reach 320lb.in by the other side. The spring rate of that spring literally would be everything between those two rates, but then it would be pointless cause you would have to list every rate and some springs do jumps like 115, 225, 320. point being there is not industry standard to measure it, or no real way to measure it at all. Some people may think that you can measure the ends and come up with a range to list., but it simply cant be donw with that. What if the first coil is somewhere in the ranges of 115 starting and slightly in the 200’s after the first inch. Then for that first inch, its not really 115 nor 200 is more of an average of the two… too technical and will never be solved, but if someone is bored, they are welcome to tryJ***
although this is a route lesser traveled, its definitely picking up as of late. To be honest I never saw the point of this as this is not big at all in Europe where I grew up, but the more I learn about it, the cooler it gets. Also people on the forum, like nickesix, snazziz24, bagdfire, cavattack2000, baggedcavy, and a few others def changed my opinion on it. You basically get the same effect as coilovers, a lot of adjustability, and all at the flick of a switch. Some of the myths of air ride is that they are accident prone. You have more parts and you are dealing with hoses, but once again, the statement holds true about the quality of the products. Make sure you buy something decent, not some schmuck on ebay who answers you question of “does this come with everything I need?” with a reply of “yeah I think so, so and so told me.” Check with a few of the names dropped above. They have the systems installed and damn well done. The only negative I really see with air rides, is that most tracks, US wise, pretty much the majority, will not let a car with them race. Sure many have snuck in, but during tech, if they see it, most will not let you race. Track safety hazard from debris hitting the bags or lines are the common reasons. Check with local tracks before you go to get rules and regulations.
Abuse of Suspension and warranty
***SLAMMED CARS with struts. Most companies…EVEN KONI will not warranty a strut if you ABUSE it. Riding around on a strut with the car slammed is abuse. Your car is a 2600+ lb vehicle. The equivalent of that would closely, be related to a large person on your back and you have to walk around all day in a squatted position. Your legs wouldn’t like it and neither does your struts. They have ways of testing to find out if you have done this or not. Simply put, you know how you can tell which part of a metal bar as been used by where the wear marks are concentrated. Well they can do the same with your strut shaft…***
Email from KYB when I inquired about there new AGX struts and when they were coming out in Canada.
They can handle a mild drop, Eibach Pro-Kit springs work well with our shocks/struts, we do not recommend the Sportlines.
KYB products have a Limited Lifetime Warranty. This warranty applies to the original purchaser of the product with a dated proof of purchase. The warranty does not apply to product that is misapplied, abused, or used in racing or commercial applications. The warranty is void if the product is used on excessively lowered (over 1.5")(Sport drops) vehicles or if an Aftermarket coilover shock system is used. Please contact your place of purchase, or a local KYB retailer, for warranty qualification and/or exchange.
and the email from Koni:
how low of a drop can the koni stuts handle before voiding warranty.
There is no set drop that would instantly void the warranty but if the
shock is bottomed from having the car too low, it will void it. It also
depends on the spring rates that are being used with how low you're
making the car. Don't forget that the best amount of lowering for
performance is when the front lower control arm is parallel with the
ground (which is usually only an inch or inch and a half lower than
stock). Thanks for writing.
Now hopefully we have struts down. Now since you should have by this time made the decision on your own from reading above what you want to put on the struts/shocks….springs or coilovers kits.
Generally speaking, “how low should I lower my car” are to be decided by YOU not us… YOU. If you have a body kit, you need to go outside, measure how much clearance you have and how much you can get rid of safely. This can be done by anyone on any car. Find the lowest point on your car and then simply measure from the bottom of it to the ground. Lets say you get 5 inches, and you want to take off 2 inches, then look at the chart below and make the decision.
4) Strut Choices
Now that you have a base on what choices to choose from, start thinking and prepping to spend extra money on some struts if need be applies. Air struts are specially made with either bags on them or an air cylinder inside. So you don’t need lowering struts for those. However, on springs and coilovers, struts should be your first buy. Once you have struts, you can put almost anything on them and not have to worry about the struts failing. Once the struts fail, so has the stability of your car. The struts are the mainstay of mechanical suspension. They control the motion of the spring. The spring is there to help the car stay suspended, while the strut is to control the smoothness. Remember the POGO stick from childhood. It was fun cause you kept bouncing, but imagine how hard it would have been if pressurized oil was inside and controlled motion. It would have sucked then, but now with a car its what you look for. CONTROL…
Strut choices for the cavalier are not as limited as they used to be, but still only a handful. And since there isn’t that big of a market, they will stay high in price. With the j-body platform, you might as well get used to it. We have alot of people who want everything their buddies have with other cars and other companies, but when it comes time to put of or shut up, most people simply shut up and as a result companies lose interest in this market.
Out of the choices available:
struts, are just as that. OEM STYLE replacement struts. Sure some say, valved stiffer etc, but when it boils down to it, they are not valved for lowering. Many have argued that KYB are not oem replacement struts, but if you take a few minutes out of your day and contact KYB AMERICA by phone, they themselves, will tell you that they WILL NOT honor the warranty these struts if on a lowered vehicle. So much for the ability of them to be lowered. Granted some do and have lowered on them for a while, don’t be shocked if yours don’t last long. Generally a strut should last well up to 5 years or more if not abused. But choosing a strut from this category and lowering past 1.5 inches or so, and you are definitely chancing it. If it does blow before time, then that’s more money to spend on new struts, alignment (you will need an alignment after every major suspension component change), and time wasted changing them, or time and money wasted for a shop to do so. These however have proved to be good for springs like the 1.2 inch lowering springs by progressive technologies and stracing. Anything more than that and you are chancing it.
A list of all the OEM style replacement are:
-Monroe (Sensatracs included)
-GM stock or upgraded suspension packages.
-Tokico HP series
These struts are valved stiffer to handle stiffer springs and increase the stability of a lowered car. They aren’t cheap. Our struts on the J platform generally cost around 500$ or higher. besides the mantapart sport struts, most all of them are adjustable manually. The only self adjusting struts alone are the billsteins, converted for our cars by mantapart and the ones found on the rksport prostreets or the B+G coilovers (same thing)
The most popular strut choice for these cars are without a doubt Koni. They are two selections, the Reds and the Yellows. Both are pretty much good for whatever you plan to do, the yellow just go to stiffer damping rate than the Reds and are adjustable while they are on the car. With the Reds, you have to take them off the car to adjust them and guess what…another alignment as well. Granted once most people find a good setting for them, they usually stick with it. Now you can use other struts. ANY strut when its new and freshly installed will work good for a while. Hell a 10 matchsticks can hold up 50-100lbs, but after a while they fatigue and wear. Obviously, 10 sticks of the same size in metal would be better, or even of a better wood, would be better, but once again the fact prevails, quality you pay more for. You get what you pay for in this area. You get cheap struts, the don’t last as long. Some have been for 2 weeks, some 2 years. But most don’t have that warranty like koni and other warrantied struts. Learn from others experience and losses, get the right thing upfront and don’t wast time changing cheaper struts, and spending more money replacing things and more alignments. Although some will not listen.
Lowering Struts are as listed:
-Koni (Red and Yellow)
-Mantapart Sport struts
-KYB AGX— while listed as a lowering strut, its only made for 1.5 inch drops of less, KYB has stated this numerous times and its also on their website for their products. -some people do otherwise, HOWEVER, thats at expense of their own warranty.
-Tokico D Spec Struts
"just wanted to add: KYB will honor lifetime warranty on blown struts on vehicles lowered up to 1.5 nothing lower
. call Troy at 1-630-620-5555 ex 40 (KYB shock tech support)"
***********KYB struts (GR2 NOR AGX)arent made for over 1.5 inch drops*************
5) Spring Choices
If you choose springs here are your choices: ***Courtesy of BearsFan (Jerry A)***
1- Apex (1.6") - - - (decent choice)
2- B-G Sport Springs (1.6") - - - (decent choice)
3- DropZone - - - (1.7") - - -(they are cheap and on ebay for a reason and they now have changed them to mimic sportlines height wise, but they do sag)
4- Eibach Pro kit (1.4") - - - (Great Choice)
5- Eibach Sportline (1.7F - 2.3R) - - - (Great Choice)
6- Fastco (1.6") - - - (Need Info & Input)
7- GoldLine (1.75") - - - (Nice Firm Ride, Popular Choice)
8- H&R Springs (1.6F - 1.4R) - - - (Decent choice)
9- Intrax (1.7") - - - (Tend to sag to or over 2 inches)
10- MantaPart Sport Springs (1.5" or 2.0") - - - (Need Info & Input)
11- Progress (1.7F - 1.5R) - - - (Decent Choice)
12- Spring Tech (1.8") - - - (Another Ebay mainstay)
13- Sprint (1.8") - - - (Nice Firm Ride, Popular Choice)
14- Suspension Tech (1.2") - - - (Nice Ride, Small Drop)
Basically here quality will pretty much show in price. The smaller drops will obviously cost less, only a little is changed from stock. So quality shouldn’t really be an issue there. But once you pass the 1.5 mark, when you hear someone’s springs like Intrax for example which are rated for 1.7, they say they are at a 2-inch drop or 2 and a quarter, that means the spring has SAGGED. Like a woman’s mammaries, we all should know sagging is NOT GOOD. Sure some people may still like the ride that’s their preference. Getting used to something isn’t always the best thing. People do it, but so do inmates when they become bubba’s b****. Eibach, H&R, B-G are among the top springs, with goldline in there as well. These are the springs that get low past 1.5… Bearsfan has also had success with the 1.2nch dropping S.techs. They are one of the only sets that are linear springs. They have a decently low spring rate being linear and being spring only. Usually, even though those give a decent ride, people prefer stiffer springs, and most times lower, for increased handling and stability, but do keep in mind. There is more to the setup THAN JUST spring choice. It is possible to have a baddazz-handling car with a soft suspension and proper bracing and the correct anti-roll bars (sway bars). I will cover that a bit more in another post.
***Big Notice…springs and coilovers on ebay are cheap for a reason. As you see most quality springs are 150$-220$+, when you see springs on ebay being sold for 60$ there is a reason. I seriously hope logic kicks in for you.***
6) Coilover Choices
Now on to coilovers, this section will be relatively short as I have already covered this. Instead there are 2 links posted that will reference you to information on what to look for and what not to look for.
***Once again courtesy of Bearsfan (Jerry A)***
1- AroSpeed - - - (Cheap Ebay Crap or CEC)
2- APC "Next Level" - - - (CEC)
3- Ground Control - - - (Best bang for the Buck get w/ Konis)
4- HMS CoilOvers - - - (Need Info & Input)
5- HP CoilOvers - - - (CEC)
6- MantaPart CoilOvers - - - (Decent choice)
7- Number 1 CoilOvers - - - (Need Info & Input)
8- RK Coilovers - - - (Similar to Ground Control, but use H&R springs)
9- Skunk2 Coilovers - - - (Not too bad, but still missing critical parts, better choices)
10- Spring Tech "Blue Line" - - - (CEC)
11- Tsudo Coilovers - - - (CEC)
12- Weapon-R "Circuit Pro" - - - (Not Much Info, but bad Info)
13- EBAY COILOVERS read the next link......
READ info on coilovers to find out whats DECENT and whats CRAP:
READ additional info on lowering at all, especially on coilovers and rksport full coilovers listed:
I would higly advise that you def read the first and second post in full. It will save you headaches in the long run and you wont screw up your ride by being cheap or simply not knowing.
A few combos of note in the spring & strut/ full coilover area are
***Once again courtesy of Bearsfan (Jerry A)***
Complete Coil-Over/ Spring & Strut Combos
1- RKSport "Pro-Street CoilOver" - - - (Very Good Choice)
2- MantaPart Sport Strut Coil-Over - - - (Very good Choice)
3- Bilstein Coil-Over Package - - - (Bilsteins, What Else can You Say)
4- Koni Red or Yellows w/ Eibach Springs via Highrevmotorsports - - - (Very Popular & Satisfying Combo)
5-Tokico D Spec Struts w/ Spring via Gravana Tuning - - - (Very Good Choice)
6- Koni Yellows w/ 1 inch front springs and 1.75 rear springs (Very Good Choice) --Gravanatuning.com and highrevmotorsports.com should have these..
7-Gravana Tuning Full 30+ way and Dual stage Loweing Coilovers (Soon to come out, but will prob be one if not THEE most adjustable coilovers for these cars)
8-Tein Basic Coilovers (Recently Came out)
9- KW coilovers Variants 1 and 2 (still yet to be released)
7) Air Ride
Lastly we get to Air ride. Its way more expensive than any full coilover kit, usually by 300 dollars. The avg kit runs about 1500 dollars for starters…the avg full coilover is around 1200$ but while I’ll spend 20 minutes lowering or raising my car, most air kits will do that in 2 seconds. That’s the advantage. Quick raising or lowering. The weight isn’t too much heavier than most regular suspension setups. Granted you will use up trunk or backseat space with the equipment needed. Air ride is def something you should look into if you should look into for sure IF you want to ride around slammed Reason being is that they are designed to ride low and be in that position…I mean, besides farting, when was the last time you hurt air? Air rides have a high level of instant adjustability and when don’t right can last a long time. But the same as the other two options…this one still lives by the same rule of thumb. You buy cheap parts, you get cheap results. From what has been posted the AIM and ART kits are usually the most popular. Look on the boards for JasonAudio, I believe his name is as he is a distributor for one of the kits. Also the members I listed above, and also including Darren Schiling.
Also a few links that will help people looking for an air ride are here:
Air Ride Technologies (ART)
and this link ALONE gives you nearly 1000 posts on air ride:
most people choose bags, i have seen alot happy with cylinders
air struts and air bags i believe are the same...they look like a normal strut, but where the spring normally is there is a bag setup...
air cylinders do not have bags. it basically looks like a shock, but the air controls the height...basically the inside is encapsulated. think of how a hydraulic arm looks like. same concept except air controlled.
price all depends on where and who you buy from....there is alot of cheap fly by night crap out there and there are alot of decent places as well.
you should also take it among yourself to start reading MANY of the past posts that involve the subjects you have asked about...
this one is cylinders.
this one is bags
Well for now that’s a RE-summed up FAQ on HOW and with WHAT to lower your car.
8) How To find More information????
One thing of note, all the forums come with the search function. If you have questions, try using this function first. Its in the blue bar above where you post. All you have to do is set it to ALL DATES and search for a term or subject. This helps from repetitive posts being asked over and over. People don’t mind helping, but would also want people to take advantage of having all the information readily available. Some people don’t do it cause they really have a genuine question, others don’t do it cause they just don’t know, and the rest don’t use it cause there are just ignorant or lazy. But like the forum rules say:
Rule 1: Use the SEARCH button before you post. Chances are if you are going to post about an article in the latest magazine, or any number of other things, someone has already posted about it
Rule 8: Read an entire post before responding to it. The chances are good that whatever you are going to say has already been said.
Rule 15: If you are new, do yourself a favor and hang around a while - read posts, and most importantly SEARCH before you begin to post. Being a newbie is inevitable. Being a stupid newbie can be avoided, though.
if you dont, thats fine, just dont complain cause not many reply cause you asked something thats posted 2 posts down or someone says something about it or your post gets deleted or moved. simple concept.
9) PLACES TO BUY THESE PARTS
Distributors of the above products can be found at:
those are just a few of the many....there are also VARIOUS other companies that sell parts. if need be visit http://www.lycos.com
or another search engine and type in what you are looking for. you will be amamzed and some of the deals you find from smaller shops.
Tips on Price Ranges
also one more add in...PRICE:
prices for springs, a decent set are around 150-200$
prices on OEM replacement valved struts are around 150-250$
(these are ok for minimal drops-1.2 inches- and stock springs, but keep in mind, most companies dont warranty them. maybe the place you buy em from MAY, but in the long run, if you go past 1.5 inches, you are risking blowing them and wasting money and time)
Struts made for lowering usally start at around 450$ and range all the way up to the billsteins at 950$
Coilovers, a decent set start at around 350$. cheaper coils start at 75-80$ and that should be your first warning. coilovers under 300$ are def suspect. if you read the post above on coils, it shows why...
(just a hint. if you find the post i made about DEAL BABY! rksports garage sale has the rksport coils for around 250 hint hint.)
full coilover kits like rksport full coils and KW start at around 1100$ and go up to 1500$ which is the price of the mantapart billstein setup.
after you do any change, def look into an alignment. theres no chart on how soon you will need it afterwards, but try to do so within a week. wearing your tires down cause you were too lazy...well its not smart , but to each their own. alignments in the US of A cost about 40-60$, maybe 70 at some shops...
some things you should know when getting an alignment
1) YOU DO NOT NEED CAMBER BOLTS!!!!! camber isnt changed much. so no matter what your friends and shops who drive imports say, its not needed. not unless you go extreme at like 3.5+ inches, but if you go that level, then CV joints will wear quick and you'll most likely blow struts riding around... so you might as well buy camber bolts, cause on reg suspension you'll be paying more in due time... but if its something regular lowering, you do not need em.
2) You shouldnt have to supply specs as the place should already have em
3) if a shop says they cant align a lowered car...leave... right then and there is a line of pure BS. i'd rather hear saddam say he sympathizes with the US and the world on national TV.
what should you say the the shop in your defense as to why and how it can be aligned right?
"the cars dont really have a large degree of camber, as long as its able to get it on the lift, you should have no problem getting it to stock specs"
the majority of us, take that back, all of us here with lowered cars have been able to get an alignment. thats alot of people.
11) Setting up your suspension for GOOD control and or racing.
this is for adjustments from tires to swaybars, tire temp, etc...
Something Useful in suspension setups - http://web.archive.org/web/20041105143659/www.j-body.org/forums/read.php?f=3&i=51956&t=26864
Also here is an excerpt, this is mainly for those of you who plan to add so much stuff you really dont even know what affects what or what effect this or that will cause.
***** DONT ADD PARTS JUST TO ADD EM, ADD EM CAUSE YOU KNOW WHAT IT DOES AND ITS NEEDED******
12) John Lenkos FAQ - Definitions of parts included
*** Written By John Lenko***
Suspension Adjustments for Handling
Near neutral handling characteristics are usually required to provide high performance cars with the ability to win in competition. While most event sanctioning organizations and clubs limit the degree of modification allowed to your suspension, it is still possible to adjust the basic handling characteristics of your vehicle and still be legal for your class of competition.
Usually the tire and road wheel's modifications offer the greatest improvement and are the easiest to perform. Your tires are the most important performance components on your car. The traction which they provide allow your engine's horsepower to be turned into acceleration, your suspension's springs, shock absorbers and anti-sway bars to be turned into cornering force, and your brake system's calipers, pads and rotors to be turned into stopping power. Therefore, any modifications that allow the vehicle to exceed the abilities of your tires will not necessarily provide the faster lap times you desire.
Any changes made to the vehicle's suspension and braking systems must be done with care and understanding. Some of the recommended adjustments will affect the vehicle's cornering capability, while others will primarily affect the vehicle as it transitions from straight-line acceleration to braking and cornering; and others, such as spoilers and ground-effects, will only affect its high speed handling.
Change only one component at a time. If more than one component is changed at a time, you won't be able to determine which change caused the resulting effect. Plan to follow a series of deliberate planned changes. Measure the test results as accurately as possible. Keep records of each modification's test results.
Take your time to test-drive the modifications made to your car and evaluate its new handling characteristics. Begin with test speeds well below your vehicle's known safety levels - work up to its new limits carefully!
Any time you make additional modifications you should retest your car.
How do I lower my J-body?
The most common reason among most non-racers to lower their car is for the look. True performance enthusiasts want to improve on the handling of their cars, which will be greatly enhanced by lowering it.
By lowering the car, you eliminate the dreaded fender gap along with giving the car a much more aggressive look. The whole car sits lower to the ground giving it an air about it similar to a racecar. But isn't it ridiculous to give up a comfortable ride just for a car that looks nicer? That's a judgment call. There are ways around losing the ride comfort. Stock vehicles have softer springs and therefore require a large gap for the car to move up and down. When you lower the car, you will (or should) have stiffer springs since they will be shorter.
If you simply cut the springs you have, the problem of bottoming out and rubbing the tires on the wheel well will arise. Similarly, if you buy cheap springs, they are usually too soft and you will have the same problem. The stiffer springs will make the ride a little less comfortable, but you won't ruin your tires or the bottom of your car. You can make up for loss of comfort due to stiff springs by installing better shocks/struts. Keep in mind that you won't completely make up the comfort, and you will still have to be careful of bumps and dips since the car will be lower to the ground.
A stock automobile has a suspension designed to provide comfort and to deal with any road hazards that one may come across. However, stock automobiles are farther from the ground to allow room for the suspension and therefore loose some points in the handling department with a high center of gravity. By lowering a car, you place the center of gravity much closer to ground and decrease air and wind resistance. The more important of those two is keeping the center of gravity low to the ground. This is important because it helps keep the car grounded through a turn. If the center of gravity is too high and centripetal force is too great, the car will flip or at least get tire skip. There are other things that could be done to further improve the suspension of a lowered vehicle. In a lowered car especially, it is a good idea to add strut tower and anti-roll/sway bars to stiffen the chassis (frame and body). This will help to eliminate body roll which, in a lowered car, may send the body of the car diving into the ground through a turn or at least rub the tires on the top of the wheel well.
First of all, no matter what you do to improve the suspension, if you lower your car, you will have to avoid going fast over large bumps such as speed bumps and railroad tracks. If you want to show off your masculinity by driving fast over bumps or up onto curbs or through rough terrain, get a truck! Second, lowering your car will change the angle that the wheels are positioned at. If this problem is not rectified, you will wear through tires twice as fast because the force of the car will not be evenly distributed across the tire. This problem can be solved with a proper wheel alignment, or for extreme drops with a camber kit, which are add-on components that allow the wheel to be positioned vertically. Third, you may run into problems with scraping if you are carrying a lot of weight (i.e. many passengers, etc.). This will just lower your car more because it puts more force on the springs causing them to compress. Whether or not your car scrapes depends entirely on how much extra weight you are carrying and how low the car was to begin with. Last but not least, the ride will probably not be as comfortable as it was when the car had stock suspension. This all depends on how much money and work you put into it.
Who makes lowering springs for the J-body?
Eibach is by far the most-installed brand of lowering spring on enthusiasts' J-body cars. However, there are an ever-increasing number of different spring choices available for third-gen cars:
Apex (1.6" drop)
B&G Sport Springs (1.6")
Eibach Pro kit (1.4", popular choice, but watch for uneven front/rear drop on 2.2L models)
Eibach Sportline (1.7" front, 2.3" rear, popular choice, but watch for uneven front/rear drop on 2.2L models)
GoldLine (1.75", nice firm ride, popular choice)
H&R Sport Springs (1.6" front, 1.4" rear)
Mantapart Sport Springs (1.5" or 2.0")
Progress (1.7" front, 1.5" rear)
Sprint (1.8" but settles lower, nice firm ride, popular choice)
Suspension Techniques (1.2", nice ride, small drop)
For second-gen cars:
What about coilovers?
For third gen J-body cars:
APC "Next Level"
Ground Control (Best bang for the buck, get w/ Koni Red struts)
Held Motorsports ???
Number 1 ???
Racer Design (RDX)
Springtech "Blue Line"
Weapon-R Circuit Pro
Who makes upgraded struts/shocks/dampers for the J-body?
Struts and shocks come in many flavors. Check with your friends and other enthusiasts for stories and testimonials on these. They're almost as subjective as tires. As far as I know, there is no "standardized" testing done on damper units, so I can't say that one brand is better than another.
If you have a 3rd gen, the Bilstein strut inserts are of the highest quality. Mantapart makes a Bilstein spring/strut combo upgrade for the J-body cars, but sells them at about half the cost of the Bilstein-tagged ones. Tim at Mantapart claims much better performance than stock, and many members on the JBO will back him up. His struts are specially built and come paired with Eibach springs ready to install.
Gabriel VST’s are a popular choice as an OEM replacement. Some OEM replacement units will handle being lowered, but not extreme drops. (Extreme Drop by KYB is 1.5 inches)
Check warranty information BEFORE lowering on an OEM replacement unit, as most warranties will not be honored if used on a lowered car.
Gabriel VST (OEM replacement, Gabriel says they are stiff, not bouncy)
Monroe (OEM replacement)
KYB Gr2 (OEM replacement)
Sachs/ Boge (OEM for VW, BMW, seeking more info)
Genertec custom Tokico (for lowered applications, but no longer available)
Mantapart Sport Struts (made for lowered applications)
Koni Special-D Red (rebound-adjustable; front strut inserts, direct fit rears)
Mantapart Bilstein (custom for J-body & lowered apps; w/lifetime warranty)
I installed lowering springs on my car. Now the ride is really harsh/bouncy. Why?
If you didn't change the struts along with the springs, you're going to notice why suspensions are all specially tuned at the factory. The stock struts are not meant to dampen the kind of shock they are now receiving due to the stiffer springs. They just can't handle the extra stresses, so they bottom out, don't rebound fast enough, and just under perform. You can remedy the situation by purchasing new struts.
What about air bags/hydraulic suspension?
There are several different options when it comes to air ride suspension. Most J owners choose strut bags for the front of the car, and air cylinders for the rear. While the ride comfort is far from stock, accumulators can help dampen the bounce (but let’s face it, most people consider air ride for the looks, rather than the comfort aspect!).
Complete bolt-in kits are available from Air Ride Technologies. Custom installations are available from many sources, including Underworld Customs. Several different manufacturers make parts for the J-body, including Air Lift, Firestone and Blowjax.
Hydraulic suspension is not recommended for a uni-body car.
(Tube frame is a different issue altogether!) I am unaware of anyone with a hydraulic suspension on an otherwise stock Cavalier. ***Addition*** Look for steve brown in Baltimore, MD..he USED to have hydraulics, but took them off afterall the stress on the chassis***
What is a strut tower brace/bar?
Strut tower braces or bars are intended to eliminate strut tower deflection and increase chassis rigidity to reduce suspension distortion from acceleration and cornering. The brace also improves the chassis rigidity for better vehicle handling and helps maintain correct suspension geometry.
Strut tower braces
are available for either the front or the rear of your J-body, and connect the two strut towers to each other, and sometimes also to the firewall or other parts of the car. The front bars are much more common, though they serve the same purpose. The length of the front and rear bars is different, so unfortunately they are not interchangeable.
Front strut tower braces come stock on the third gen convertible J-body cars,
but not other models. GM must have decided that the convertible models were the only ones that would benefit from the strut tower bar, because of the lessened chassis rigidity and structural integrity that results when you chop the roof off of a car. However, they didn't take into consideration enthusiasts like you or me. Luckily, the stock strut tower bar will fit just fine on most of the J-body models, plus there are plenty of aftermarket bars available.
GM even makes several different models, which you can order from any local parts counter or online dealer.
was used from 1995-2000 on the 2.4L convertibles. This is the "standard" strut bar, which has a bracket to mount to the firewall, but no cruise control (CC) bracket (for cars with either no CC or have the CC module mounted to the firewall instead). Companies like RK Sport, RSM Racing and Mantapart (just to name a few) all sell this same bar as a performance suspension upgrade.
was used from 95-97 on the 2.2L convertibles with cruise control. This bar has a bracket to mount the passenger-strut mounted CC module on as well as a firewall bolt bracket. Will also fit any J-Body that has the CC module mounted on the Passenger Strut Mount.
was used on the 1995 2.3L convertibles, with the CC module mounted on the passenger side strut tower. In theory, this should be the same as the 22642387 bar, but no one has compared them side-to-side to make certain. (Please feel free to do so and send us an update!)
was used on the 96-98 2.2L convertibles, according to GM’s part computers. However, we’re not sure if it has the cruise control bracket or not. (If you know or can find out, please send us an update!)
Many aftermarket front strut braces also exist.
One made by Freedom Design, is a polished forged aluminum bar, and costs about $100 (part #63102). Mantapart also has a front strut tower bar. RK Sport sells several designs as well, as does Next Level, Ractive, Vibrant, OBX, and APC.
Second gen Z24s came stock with a front strut tower brace. APC also makes a chrome front bar.
Rear strut tower braces
are available from several companies, such as Mantapart, Next Level, RSM, Freedom Design,
What is a subframe brace?
A subframe brace fits between the two A-arms on the front suspension and ties the lower suspension together to eliminate lower A-arm flex during hard cornering. This gives a much more consistent feel and stability to the suspension under hard cornering. Subframe braces do hang low enough that clearance over road obstacles could be an issue, especially if your car is lowered.
Mantapart and Control F/X make subframe braces for the third gen J-body. Subframe braces are also easily custom made out of square steel or aluminum and a couple of bolts.
What is that "loose lumber" sound coming from my trunk?
Some 1996 and 1997 model year J-body cars had this sound. It came from a bad strut mount on the rear suspension. GM has issued a technical service bulletin on this issue. If your car is experiencing this problem, GM will replace those parts under warranty.
My car makes strange noises when I’m turning, what is it?
If it’s a creaking or popping sound when turning the wheels side to side, either while moving or stopped, it’s probably your front strut mounts or a spring reseating in its perch. The stock strut mounts are not known for their good quality or life expectancy, especially when the car’s geometry is altered by use of lowering springs or coilovers. Replacing them with aftermarket mounts, such as those from Monroe or Gabriel, will probably address the problem.
If you’re hearing a thump, thump, thump sound that increases with speed, or turns into a humming noise over 50 mph (80 km/h) then you may have a bad wheel bearing. They are usually around $70 each, and there doesn’t seem to be any quality problems with either GM parts or aftermarket.
Constant thump, thump, thump noises are sometimes attributed to bad CV joints. Diagnosing whether a CV joint is bad or not is a job best left to a professional. Just remember to always get a second opinion first!
What is a sway bar?
Anti-roll (or sway) bars improve lateral stability without stiffening normal suspension movement. Anti-roll bars minimize body roll, which stabilizes the tire contact patch for maximum traction. That's important because all of the weight and power of your vehicle is transmitted to the road over a mere handful of square inches called the tire contact patch. Most FWD street cars have moderate understeer (aka "PUSH"). The sway bars are designed to improve overall balance by the use of proportionately stiffer rear bars. The car will have a "neutral" feel, with a gentle push at its limits. The opposite of push or understeer is oversteer. Cars that exhibit this characteristic are said to be "loose" and are prone to spinning.
Compared to the upper strut tower bar, which is designed to increase structural rigidity, the rear sway bar is designed to prevent body roll from occuring in corners. This reduction of body roll prevents the transfer of weight to the outside edge of your car which can "throw" the rear end outward in a curve (a.k.a. "spinout").
The rear anti-sway bar attaches externally to your rear axle through four points. The bar sits directly underneath the rear axle, and mounts in two spots to the axle using polyurethane bushings and bolts on each of the mounts. The bar then curves 90 degrees on each side and curves towards the back of the car. The other two mounts attach to the rear spindle assembly near the rear brake drums with a special bracket included with the kit.
J-bodies do not come with a stock rear sway bar,
but some models do come with a rear stabilizer bar. Aftermarket rear sway bars work with the stock rear stabilizer bar (you do not have to remove it).
Aftermarket front sway bars replace the OEM front sway bar. If you do not have a stock front sway bar you need to get the hardware kit off of a Cavalier/Sunfire that does have a stock front sway bar so the new front sway bar can be installed.
Anti-sway bars also exist for the front axle of the car. Some cars come with them stock; those with the FE1 suspension package comes with an 18mm front sway bar, and the FE2 package comes with a 22mm.
You must be careful when adding or changing these bars, because if the bar is too large in either the front or the rear, you will introduce either understeer or oversteer. The trick is to find a balance, or "neutral" handling condition, where the car neither "pulls" you inward through the turn nor "pushes" you outward through the turn. Oversteer (or "pulling") is mostly found on rear wheel drive cars, like the F-body. Understeer (or "pushing") is mostly found on front wheel drive cars, like the J-body.
Hellwig used to make a rear 19mm bar, which helped to create a more "neutral" handling when added, while keeping your stock front sway bar. The new Hellwig bar is 26mm. (25.4mm) RK Sport and JC Whitney sell the Hellwig bar.
ADDCO makes 25mm (25.4mm) rear anti-sway bars for the J-body.
Eibach makes a 22mm rear bar and a 25.4mm front bar, sold together as a package.
What is a tie-bar?
A tie bar stiffens the rear of the car by tying both sides of the lower suspension anti-sway bar attachment points together. This reduces geometry distortion while braking and cornering. It is an add-on piece to the Addco or Hellwig rear sway bar. Under hard cornering, without a tie bar, you could experience lifting of the inner rear wheel around corners. If it doesn't lift, it at least gets light. With a tie bar, you eliminate a lot of the flex in the sway bar, and it will be tighter and maintain ground contact.
Fitment on these bars is sometimes tight, especially clearing some aftermarket exhaust systems. The bar will usually fit but may touch the intermediate (or ‘over the axle’ pipe) on some custom installations, particularly on lowered cars.
What about camber kits?
Camber kits are useful if you plan to run in some Solo or Autocross events, to get more negative camber and obtain better suspension work in the corners. For everyday street use, a camber kit is not really necessary
as the stock suspension is adjustable enough that a proper alignment can fix any camber problems, including those introduced after lowering a car.
Eibach, Intrax and Sprint make front camber correction kits. Ingalls makes front and rear camber corrections kits. RK Sport sells camber adjustment bolts as well.
What about new A-Arms?
RK Sport sells a tubular A-arm that replaces the stock flat sheet metal A-arms. They eliminate flexing of the arms themselves under power and cornering and decrease wheel hop.
The original RK Sport A-arms were recalled due to cracking welds.
Where can I get a roll bar/cage?
RK Sport carries a 4-point roll cage, and Jegs carries 4-point, 8-point, 10-point and 12-point cages.
Now as you can see, john laid it out really straightforward and precisely. a post like that needed to be read rather than linked... NOW onto other options...
13) SWAYBAR/TIEBAR/SUBFRAME/BUSHING CHOICES
now if you dont know what these do, please check out the link to John Lenkos or read the above paragraphs.
now that you know WHAT they are and WHAT they do, here are the choices so far.
-18mm stock FE1 bar (stock on 95-99)*
-22mm stock FE2 bar (stock on 2000-2002)*
-24mm stock FE3 bar (stock on 2003-2004)*
-25.4mm addco bar
-25.4mm eibach bar (-sold in combo with their 22mm rear)
-26mm mantapart.com bar
local place = custom bar
****kinda like the 3rd gen is still a 3rd gen from 95-04, but have series 1 (95-99), series 2 (00-02), and series 3 (03-04).... the suspension of "FE2" has a series 1 (00-02) and series 2 (03-04) ....the 2000 - 2002cars still run FE2 style 22mm front bars, the 03+ cars just have a 2mm upgrade.******
Part Numbers for Clamps and misc stuff if you car did not have a front bar stock
I went to the local Chevy Parts Department today, and got a list of parts I'll need to install an FE2 bar on my FE0 Cavalier ... Here's the list he gave me:
2 Clamps 22660396
2 Insulators 22619843
4 Bolts 11516328
2 Links 22657718
courtesy of Josh.
***NO THIRDGEN EVER HAD A REAR SWAYBAR STOCK*** granted brochures NOW say thats what it is, its function does not even compare to a functioning swaybar. if you need more info visit this link.
-19mm hellwig bar
-22mm eibach bar (-sold in conjunction with their 25.4mm front)
-22mm rksport bar
-22mm progressive technologies bar
-22mm mantapart.com bar
-25.4mm addco bar
-26mm mantapart .com bar
-local places = custom bar
-GRD (if you can find em)
-Custom made (easy to do)
-Trailblazer bar (cheap, but not really made to be a tie bar as the ends are supposed to have swivel points, as well as most dont even install them structurally correct. for most its on the car for looks than function. view post: http://www.j-body.org/forums/read.php?f=3&i=88368&t=88368
for CORRECT placement of ANY tie bar on a J-Body.) also view team forward motions site on tie bars. the links for that are:
simply put theres a right way to do things and a wrong way.... i'll leave it at that.
-Custom (easy to do -- use search for posts entitled subframe, directions there as well as pics)
-Control FX (talk to vincent keen)
-GM (see lenkos FAQ for part numbers)
-Gravana (possibly soon to be released)
Good alternative to tighten up slop, but only a few choices are available.(rksport, carcustoms, highrev, rsm, and most all places sell these)
-Control Arm Bushings
-Trailing Arm Bushings (RSM ONLY AS OF NOW SELLS THESE)
14) Install Section
KONI RED/YELLOW COILOVERS and general coilover install...(GROUND CONTROL PICTURED/USED) aka Big Jerm21 Strut mount mod....
these are directions uploaded, credit goes to bigjerm21...
you should do the strut mount mod posted by bigjerm21 also reposted on the forums by chris pauley if you want then to work virtually stress free
KONI YELLOW INSTALL w/ pics
Cinny took the time to do an ENTIRE WRITE UP WITH PICTURES.... take the time to read before you ask "how do i put my yellows on?"
also this one http://www.j-body.org/forums/read.php?f=3&i=69930&t=51127#69930
How to Change struts and springs
Install Various bars and braces
-J bodies stock have 2 grease points for suspension grease...the tie rod ends
-Aftermarket ball joints may have grease nipples, stock ones are sealed.
-Technically our cars have 4 struts. shocks are two parts (look at a second gens rear suspension for example), where as struts are a cylinder with a piston and rod in it.
Post Edited (05-22-05 10:00 AM)